Conservative Brexiteers are now openly plotting to bring down Theresa May
- Brexit-supporting Tory MPs are in open revolt against Theresa May.
- A group of around 50 MPs openly discussed plans to topple the leader at a backbench meeting last night, with Downing Street witnesses present.
- "Virtually the only topic of conversation [...] was how best do we get rid of her?" one MP reportedly said.
- If 20 more MPs send a letter of no-confidence in Theresa May, they will trigger a no-confidence vote in her leadership.
LONDON - Conservative MPs broke ranks last night and revolted against Theresa May, with dozens openly debating the best way to topple the prime minister unless she abandons her Chequers plan for Brexit.
Around 50 Tory MPs attended the weekly meeting of the backbench Brexiteer group called the European Research Group on Tuesday evening. It was the first time they had so openly discussed the prospect of how to overthrow Theresa May, despite the presence of Conservative whips who everyone present knew would report the discussions immediately to Downing Street.
"Virtually the only topic of conversation for 40/50 mins was how best do we get rid of her?" one Conservative MP told ITV's Robert Peston.
"Comments included: 'Everyone I know says she has to go,' 'she's a disaster,' 'this can't go on.' You might think that this is usual far [sic] for us, but it's not! Not in the mass weekly meeting, never in what's basically a public forum."
Other backbench MPs including John Baron and Andrew Bridgen also emerged from the meeting and told reporters that they had been discussing leadership issues within the party. Another source told the BBC that the meeting had been a discussion of "how best you game the leadership election rules," to allow a Brexit-supporting leader to win.
Opposition to Theresa May's Chequers plan, which Leave supporters believe would keep the UK too closely tied to the EU, has grown over the summer recess, and backbenchers have warned that up to 80 Tory MPs would reject the deal in parliament.
Downing Street insisted May's remains "the only serious, credible and negotiable plan" for leaving the EU.
Letters of no confidence
If at least 48 Tory MPs send letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 backbench committee, it would trigger a vote on Theresa May's premiership.
The principal issue under discussion last night was the timing of a confidence vote. Brady has already received "at least 35" letters, the Telegraph reported, and MPs could co-ordinate the remaining 20 that are needed so they control the timing of a vote.
That could arrive within weeks. Many MPs believe the best time to trigger a vote would be shortly after the Conservative party conference at the end of September.
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NEW: @ABridgen tells us that Gavin Barwell has promised to give Theresa May a "full appraisal" of what MPs thought of her after tonight's dinner (she hasn't been present). Asked if there'll be a coup, he says "wait and see." pic.twitter.com/IxLJyqYf7y- Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) September 11, 2018